We have often heard stories of what people say on their deathbed about the wise, not so wise, and foolish ways they spent their life. Recently I wondered about what lay leaders might say about their dying congregations. My focus was on the foolish ways they spent their congregational life.
Try these out and see what you think. What would you add? What would you see differently? Which ones are scary for you because they are too close to the truth about your congregation? Here are the thoughts of one lay leader.
First, I wish we had built more buildings and incurred additional debt. I know we kept delaying maintenance on some of our buildings and finally got to the point we could not afford to retrofit them and had to close them. However, it sure was exciting every time a new building went up. We believed strongly in the idea that if we built it they would come. They did not come.
Second, I wish we had fired or forced the denomination to appoint a new pastor to us sooner rather than later. There were probably two or three more bad pastors we should have gotten rid of. What did they teach these pastors in seminary? Too many of them either did not have a vision for our church or could not make their vision happen. What did they think we were paying them to do? Apparently they did not know.
Third, I wish we had shut down that contemporary worship service sooner. It was not working. The people who attended did not carry their load of leadership or financial contributions to our church. What they did during those services could hardly be called worship; at least not in the rich tradition of our denomination. Once we got it shut down, we had to replace the carpet in the room where they met as they had spilled so much coffee, juice, and soft drinks on it. Food and drinks are not needed in worship anyway.
Fourth, I wish we had not started that new church. Some of the families I really liked went out with the new church. I missed them. Even though they located more than ten miles further out from town than where we were located, that is where the growth was. It did not take them long to become larger than us. We stopped growing when we started them. They have sponsored three other churches in our area and another one in South America. Maybe we could have started that church in South America if we had not sent out so many leading families to the new church.
Fifth, I wish we had not had that emphasis on being more of an inviting church seeking to attract new families to our church. One of the losses–OK not a big one–is that I lost my parking space right up next to the door near my Sunday School classroom. We repurposed more spaces for guests plus added what they called stork parking for pregnant women and parents of infants. I guess that was good, but maybe they should have come here for a while first and earned the right to have premium parking places.
Sixth, I wish we had not started that ministry to people from Burma. I believe they were called the Karen people. Having them integrated into our worship, Sunday School, and other programs changed our church in ways in which I was not always pleased. I realize that missionaries 200 years ago connected with them in the modern day Myanmar, and they became Christians. But did they have to teach them our hymns? They knew how to sing them better than us.
Seventh, I wish we had not stopped having worship on Sunday nights and prayer meeting and Bible study on Wednesday nights. I loved coming back to church on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. The crowds were smaller. Most of the people present were my friends. The service was more intimate. But finally we could not get new people and young adult families to come so we stopped. I wonder if we should have cut our pastor’s salary when we did that because he did not have to work as hard.
Oh well. Now the church is closing down, and I do not have to worry about all those things we should have done. I wonder why we died.